Journal of Applied Physiology

No effect of short-term testosterone manipulation on exercise substrate metabolism in men

Barry Braun, Laura Gerson, Todd Hagobian, Daniel Grow, Stuart R. Chipkin


Compared with women, men use proportionately more carbohydrate and less fat during exercise at the same relative intensity. Estrogen and progesterone have potent effects on substrate use during exercise in women, but the role of testosterone (T) in mediating substrate use is unknown. The purpose of this investigation was to assess how large variations in the concentration of blood T would impact substrate use during exercise in men. Nine healthy, active men were studied in three distinct hormonal conditions: physiological T (no intervention), low T (pharmacological suppression of endogenous T with a gonadotrophin-releasing hormone antagonist), and high T (supplementation with transdermal T). Total carbohydrate oxidation, blood glucose rate of disappearance, and estimated muscle glycogen use were assessed by using stable isotope dilution and indirect calorimetry at rest and while bicycling at ∼60% of peak O2 consumption for 90 min. Relative to the physiological condition (T = 5.5 ± 0.5 ng/ml), total plasma T was considerably suppressed in low T (0.8 ± 0.1) and elevated in high T (10.9 ± 1.1). Despite the large changes in plasma T, carbohydrate oxidation, glucose rate of disappearance, and estimated muscle glycogen use were very similar across the three conditions. There were also no differences in plasma concentrations of glucose, insulin, lactate, or free fatty acids. Plasma estradiol (E) concentrations were elevated in high T, but correlations between substrate use and plasma concentrations of T, E, or the T-to-E ratio were very weak (r2 < 0.20). In conclusion, unlike the effect of acute elevation in E to constrain carbohydrate use in women, acute changes in circulating T concentrations do not appear to alter substrate use during exercise in men.

  • androgen
  • carbohydrate oxidation
  • fat oxidation
  • glucose uptake
  • stable isotope
  • glycogen
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